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Marvel Studios' Eternals (2021) MOVIE REVIEW | CRPWrites

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Movie Review

CASUAL

Nick L'Barrow
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 Published: 11.03.21

    MPAA: PG13

Genre: Action. Adventure. Drama.

"Marvel’s Eternals feels different for the MCU"

     RELEASE: 11.05.21

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MARVEL STUDIOS' ETERNALS (2021) 

OPENING THOUGHTS:

As the MCU transitions into more interconnected and galactic stakes, Eternals enters the filmography in what is the official meshing of Earth and the greater vastness of the threats in the galaxy. While the beginning of Phase 4 in the MCU has wrapped up elements of Phase 3 and given audiences new characters like Shang-Chi, Eternals feels like the true beginning of this new phase in a film that, with its comparatively different style of Marvel movie, may be setting the MCU on a new tonal course. But, is it a new tone that will win fans over?

DIRECTION:

Oscar-nominated director Chloe Zhoa (Nomadland) was not someone I would have ever picked to direct a movie in the MCU, but this was the perfect choice for this story. Utilising her unique ability to tell personal and meaningful tales about humanity, Zhao takes the Eternals and makes them feel like some of the most human characters we’ve seen in the MCU. Taking time to really focus on the relationship dynamic between the Eternals really allows the audience to get to know who each character is and what they represent. Within one film, you can truly feel the bond between this group.


However, Zhao’s major strength comes through her visual flair. Possibly the most beautiful looking MCU film today, Eternals is awe-inspiring on the big screen. Incredible locations, colourful set design and stunningly lit cinematography all mesh to create an outstanding look and feel unlike anything superhero films have done before. Whether it’s sharp close ups in emotional scenes, or incredibly dynamic camera movements during exciting action set pieces, Zhao displays a great ability to give Marvel fans a taste of the action they love, with the subtle perfection of a more subdued, personal story.

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PLOT:

Telling its story over the course of 7000 years, Eternals follows a group of immortal heroes who have been sent to Earth by the celestial being, Arishem, to defend the planet from an alien species known as Deviants. However, from 5000 BC right up until the present day, the Eternals mission has been strictly focused on the Deviants, with orders not to interfere with society’s evolution, creating a divide amongst the group as they witness humanity at its worst during conflicts and wars. Resisting the urge to unify their powers and help mankind be a peaceful society, the foundations of their mission being to crack as they question their true purpose on Earth.

 

In comparison to other films in the MCU, Eternals chooses to focus on characters over spectacle, and it really works in the grand scheme of the film. Choosing to write a story that focuses more on characters who have many internal conflicts within themselves and their group creates an emotionally engaging film. The script does a fantastic job of distinguishing each character's differences and morals, whilst also solidifying their family dynamic (even though they aren’t blood relatives). This is not to say any other MCU films haven’t succeeded in creating emotional stakes, but there is something raw about the tone of Eternals that feels like the movie’s strengths are within the personality, rather than the action.

 

And in saying that, the action doesn’t disappoint either. Seeing each character's unique powers on display was exciting and made from some truly captivating set pieces. There was a handheld-grittiness to some way certain heroes (specifically Ikaris’) action scenes were shot, compared to some of the other stock standard ways Marvel action has been shot before. Even with the differences that this film may have compared to other MCU films, it still uses the action styles we have come to know and love, while mixing in that heartfelt humour.


While the story and characters are truly intriguing on screen, there are some obvious pacing issues within Eternals. At some points, the film’s patience with it’s storytelling can be a hindrance on the runtime. Clocking in as the second-longest film in the MCU (at 2 hours 37 minutes), there are moments in the first hour or so that can feel repetitive or drawn out. This isn’t unexpected for a Chloe Zhao film (especially if you’ve seen Nomadland), but for a Marvel movie, it’s quite noticeable. This is Eternals' major flaw, and while it’s not anything new to these longer superhero movies, it’s an element that just brings this movie short of perfection.

ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:

Introducing a group of 10 heroes in their first movie is not an easy task, however the emotional connecting and differentiating personalities of each hero truly shines through in Eternals. Some characters are definitely more at the forefront than others, with the story focusing on Sersi (Gemma Chan), who must rally the Eternals together in the present day to fight the Deviant threat after many years of peace. Chan is the heart of this film, as she goes through the reluctant heroes journey, one story that has been done many times before, but with the connection shown between these characters, makes it a journey worth investing in emotionally.

Highlights amongst the group are Ikaris (Richard Madden) as the quazi-Alpha of the group, Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) who in classic Marvel fashion brings his comedic strengths to the table, and Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) as the MCU’s first deaf superhero.

This isn’t to discredit the rest of the stacked cast, including amazing performances from Angelina Jolie as Thena, Salma Hayek as Ajak and Barry Keoghan as Druig, as all the Eternals are fantastic and unique, and all a pleasure to watch on screen.

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VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:

Whether it’s in camera design, or visual effects, Eternals is truly stunning to look at. From the design of the Eternals outfits, to their celestial style powers, and even the changing designs of the Deviants, everything in this movie is eye-catching.

While it’s still CGI-heavy during the action scenes, and following claims during productions that much of what we see was filmed practically, there is a sense of realism within this film that isn’t really seen much in superhero films now, and it’s definitely a welcomed change.

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MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:

Game of Thrones composer, Ramin Djawadi, has created a brilliant and subtle score for Eternals. With each character’s theme having a tone and style that matches their personalities. In the big moments, the score is bassy and prominent, but then in the more personal moments, it beautifully compliments the intended emotions.

There is also a grand, celestial feel to the score with strong sci-fi tones that really match the film’s vibe, and showcases Djawadi’s strength’s.

The sci-fi feel also comes through the sound design with is amazing in a cinema, and is no surprise for the MCU.

CLOSING THOUGHTS:

Marvel Studios’ Eternals feels different for the MCU, but different in a new and welcomed way. Focusing on the characters over the action spectacle (which this film is definitely not lacking) may not be what audiences are used to, but Zhao’s directoral subtlety showcases that there are so many intriguing stories to still tell within the MCU!

 

MARVEL STUDIOS' ETERNALS is in Cinemas - November 5th!

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CONCLUSIVE VERDICT:

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